The machine, which is now 82 years old, was brought to the school by Dr James Grime, who runs the Enigma Project and travels the UK and the world to show people the magic of mathematics using this original code-breaking machine. There are only around 20 on display worldwide, with a few more in private collections, so it was a treat for the Year 7 girls to be able to see a machine in the flesh – especially as this is the only Enigma machine that travels to schools.
Dr Grime gave a presentation on the history of codes and code-breaking and demonstrated using the Enigma machine. The girls were thrilled to learn about the important role women had at Bletchley Park – by 1945, 75% of the staff of Bletchley Park were women – and were then keen to get cracking on deciphering codes themselves in code-breaking workshops.
Dr Grime hopes that the Enigma Project will help to inspire and motivate both children and adults to learn more about mathematics. He said: “Through this project I am trying to show people one of the more exciting uses of mathematics. It’s so important to get into science subjects and it was great to be a part of inspiring the girls at St Mary’s School, Cambridge.”
Darren Kelly, Head of Mathematics at St Mary’s Senior School, Cambridge, said: “It was a fantastic opportunity for the girls to see maths used in a different, ‘real-life’ context. Dr Grime was impressed by the girls’ tenacity in the code-breaking workshops, and by their interest in the history of codes and code-breaking.”
Pictured above are St Mary’s pupils with the Enigma cipher machine.